The arduously long India-England series that will be underway in a few days’ time has importance in Indian cricket history. Very rarely has a Test series featured two debut Test venues.
The BCCI is sticking to its promise of bringing cricket to the Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities and its endeavours can be lauded considering how much potential such venues have. The first and second Tests between the two teams will be played at Rajkot (Saurashtra) and Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), before the two teams head to three very popular, well-noted venues with a lot of history of their own – Mohali, Mumbai and Chennai.
Home-ground to two members who are a certainty in the starting XI for India – Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja – Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Rajkot isn’t new to international cricket. The ground has hosted three matches, two ODIs, in 2013 and 2015 and a T20I. England played the first ODI at Rajkot which should give them a sense of familiarity with the place.
They won the match by 9 runs after posting 325 and later pulling victory off from the jaws of defeat. In 2015, India lost to South Africa in the second ODI played at Rajkot (third of that series). India failed to chase down 270, despite being 193-2 at one stage, Morkel getting a 4-wicket haul on a good, reasonably bouncy surface. India tasted victory at Rajkot in the lone T20I against Australia when they chased down 201 thanks to Yuvraj Singh’s unbeaten blitzkrieg.
However, the pitch will definitely not be as flat as it was for each of these games and is sure to assist turn as do most tracks in India. Rajkot is home to Gujarat Lions too, a team that did really well in IPL 2016, ensuring that the popularity of cricket is very high in these parts of the country.